Moves the Baltimore Orioles Must Try to Pull off at the 2013 MLB Winter Meetings
Next week will be the most exciting and rumor-filled week of the offseason. Or at least, that's what's supposed to happen.
The MLB winter meetings start on Monday, and teams will be talking trades and discussing free-agent deals like there's no tomorrow. It's the nature of the beast.
One team with a lot of work to do is the Baltimore Orioles. The team has holes to fill in its starting rotation and at second base, left field and designated hitter. Plus, it needs bullpen help after trading closer Jim Johnson to the Oakland Athletics in order to free up payroll.
There are a few specific moves the O's could make that I believe will improve the team. I realize that everything I'm going to suggest likely won't all happen, but the team needs to get engaged in talks with the following players and make an effort to improve the club.
Keep an eye on these names next week. The O's must be tied to them.
Bronson Arroyo, Starting Pitcher
An innings-eater is what Bronson Arroyo is, and an innings-eater is what the Birds so desperately need in their rotation.
Arroyo recently stated the O's had some interest in him in this interview with Cincinnati Reds beat reporter Mark Sheldon, as they should. The O's bullpen has been overworked for the last two seasons, and the team needs a guy like Arroyo in its rotation to help give the bullpen a breather every fifth day.
The right-hander is the only pitcher in MLB to make at least 32 starts every season since 2005. During that time, he's thrown 199 innings or more and has had an ERA above 5.00 just once over that span, with a career ERA of 4.19. Plus, he's never been on the disabled list.
No, he's not the ace the O's need, but he's certainly a quality pitcher. If he were signed, it would take some pressure off of O's No. 1 Chris Tillman and likely help him grow into an ace, as he'll have some piece of mind knowing that a guy who eats innings is pitching the day after he is.
Arroyo turns 37 during spring training, so a two-year deal would probably be the smartest way to go. With no true ace on the market for the O's to spend their money on, Arroyo is the best option, as his signing would significantly help the team's rotation while still leaving money left to make other additions to the roster.
The O's need to be all-in on Arroyo.
Carlos Beltran, Outfielder/DH
The O's need on-base help. They also need a left fielder and a DH.
Carlos Beltran can do all three.
A few weeks ago, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted that the O's were interested in Beltran, but their pursuit of him may hinge on their ability to trade a high-priced player such as catcher Matt Wieters.
Well, the O's traded Jim Johnson to the A's the other night, and he was projected to earn $10-11 million through arbitration this winter. So they cleared some money right there.
Beltran is exactly the kind of player the O's need in their lineup: high on-base percentage (.359 career) with some good pop (24 homers last season) and great postseason numbers (.333 batting average, 16 homers in 180 at-bats).
He could rotate between left field and DH, depending on the day, the opposing pitcher and who else manager Buck Showalter wants to get into the lineup. And he'll provide veteran leadership while being hungry for a World Series title.
Beltran will be 37 in April, so the O's have to be careful. They don't want to give him too many years at too high of a salary. But he's exactly the type of lineup presence the team needs, and if it can get him, that will be the splash that O's fans need to see from the front office after the Johnson deal.
Kendrys Morales, DH/First Baseman
If the O's can't land Carlos Beltran, then they should turn their attention to Kendrys Morales and keep their attention on the switch-hitter until he agrees to become an Oriole.
Morales would fill the team's void at DH, providing 20-30 home run pop and a solid OBP (career .333). He could also rotate onto the field every once in a while, playing first base to give O's first baseman Chris Davis a chance to DH and have a breather. And while he isn't an impact player of the same caliber as Beltran, Morales would do wonders to fatten out the O's lineup and would likely do it on a cheaper deal.
Morales is just 30 years old, so an investment in him of three to four years wouldn't be a problem. And two straight successful seasons between 2012 and 2013 prove that his freak health issues are a thing of the past. The O's wouldn't need to worry about chronic health problems while negotiating with Morales.
For a team that isn't a free-spender but does have some budget space, such as the O's, Morales is the perfect target. The team would be foolish to ignore that, which is why the O's need to make their interest in this player known and do it as soon as possible.
Scott Feldman, Starting Pitcher
If the O's are serious about wanting to bring back tall right-hander Scott Feldman, they need to do it quickly.
The O's have interest in bringing back Feldman, as reported by the Baltimore Sun's Dan Connolly. That could be a solid move, as it would give the O's rotation some quality depth.
In 15 starts with the team in 2013, Feldman went 5-6 with an ERA of 4.27 covering 90.2 innings. Slot that into the 4-spot, and the rotation instantly becomes that much deeper while also giving the team some flexibility to move a current starter into the bullpen due to the absence of Jim Johnson (Bud Norris, anyone?).
Feldman may push for a three-year deal on the free-agent market, and the O's likely would much prefer a two-year pact. But if the sides could settle on a two-year deal with a vesting option for a third season, at around $17 million as was suggested by MLB Trade Rumors' Steve Adams, I think Feldman would jump at the chance to return to Baltimore.
The O's could really use Feldman. I say grab both him and Bronson Arroyo. And get it done next week.
Figure Out the Second Base Situation
So far this winter, the O's have done absolutely nothing to address how the second base position is going to be handled in 2014. Granted, it is still early in the offseason, but the O's would be better off figuring the situation out now instead of continuing to put it off.
Brian Roberts (pictured) had a healthy and somewhat productive second half of 2013 and is now a free agent. A lifelong Oriole, the two sides seem to have interest in keeping it that way, as reported by the Baltimore Sun's Eduardo A. Encina, but the O's want to make sure it's at the right price, and who could blame them?
Roberts hasn't had a full healthy season since 2009. In fact, he's played in just 192 games over the last four seasons.
Another free-agent option is Mark Ellis, and while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports has stated the O's have interest in Ellis, he also made it clear that the O's haven't reached out to Ellis and have simply discussed him internally. If Ellis is signed, that would likely be the end of Roberts' Orioles career.
On top of that, the O's have a ton of in-house candidates for the job, including Ryan Flaherty, Jonathan Schoop, Jemile Weeks (acquired in the Jim Johnson deal) and recently signed Cord Phelps. If the O's sign Roberts or Ellis, those four guys will probably battle it out in spring training for a utility job. If not, they'll be trying to win a starting second base job, with the utility job going to the next best guy.
The O's could go in a number of directions in regard to the second base job. But they'd be smart to figure it out soon, while there are still a number of options on the table. The last thing they need is to wait around until guys such as Roberts and Ellis are signed.